Frontline view

Mutiny in the workplace

As a manager you can't get it right all the time but you aim to get it right 95% of the time, but what to do when your authority is questioned or challenged?
  • Guardian Professional,
  • Jump to comments ()
capello
Who's in charge here? England boss Fabio Capello barks his orders to the players

So far in this World Cup we have seen the French campaign end in complete disarray because of an open revolt against their manager and his leadership – with the England camp also in a mutinous mood until it was nipped in the bud by Fabio Capello.

In England's case the players complained, some more vocally than others, about Capello's management style and the way they were being treated. They claimed this was the real reason for the team's poor performance.

Every manager knows that feeling when the rumbling turns in to open revolt and the disgruntled minority suddenly seem to be speaking for everyone.

It's the classic management dilemma re assert your authority (like Capello) or bow to the pressure.

Listen to what they have to say, thank them for their honesty and bravery but tell them you are paid to make the decisions remind them it is not a democracy and that while you are the manager we do things your way.

Everyone is clear you are in charge, for now: but if things don't improve and without their co-operation the future doesn't look good. Alternatively, give in, say ok we will try it your way, the crisis is averted, they are happy, you're a manager who listens and is prepared to change their mind.

The trouble is will they think every decision is up for debate, will they question everything you do and what happens when they don't agree amongst themselves, which is quiet often. Is this really a challenge to your leadership by one of the team, a dominant individual who has become the unofficial leader and who may not be as representative as they claim?

And what if performance still does not improve you are still the manager and your boss will hold you accountable and they won't be to impressed if you say "well I did it this way because that's what the team wanted."

The art of leadership is to know when to change your mind and when to maintain your resolve. The basic guide is to remember you can't get it right all the time but you aim to get it right 95% of the time.

That being the case you do need to listen because you may have made your original decision without some information that is now available. In other words you made the right decision at the time but you need to be prepared to reconsider in light of new info.

By listening you may become aware that your instructions have been misunderstood or not accurately passed on. This is your chance to clarify and explain what you want and why.

Never compromise your values; they are what you believe in and cannot without loss of integrity be suspended for short-term expediency.

Popularity is a passing phase not something that should concern managers, loss of face is embarrassing but short lived what will be remembered is whether you said what you meant and meant what you said and still got it right most of the time.

Blair McPherson was until recently a senior manager in a large local authority he is author of People management in a Harsh Financial Climate published by russellhouse.co.uk

Public leaders jobs

Today in pictures